Color, 2011, 77m.
Directed by Charles Evered
Starring Michael O'Keefe, Michael A. Newcomer, Oleysa Rulin, James Van Patten, David Naughton
Horizon / Kino Lorber (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DTS-HD 5.1

A Thousand CutsFirst things first: despite the Saw-inspired cover art and the promise that this is the "unrated director's cut," A Thousand Cuts is not a horror film and would possibly even squeak by with a PG-13 rating if anyone submitted it. What we have here instead is a chamber drama that sounds like a home invasion thriller but plays out more like a standoff between two deeplA Thousand Cutsy damaged characters grappling with the issue of violence and taking responsibility for its influence.

Where you personally stand on the issue will most likely get an airing here as the film juggles a lot of balls in the air dealing with arrogant movie director Lance (Newcomer), who's ditched his aspirations at creating real cinema and now makes a killing at the box office with a trio of films in the sadistic A Thousand Cuts horror series. One night at a party at his house mingling with various movers and shakers, an unwelcome guest intrudes in the form of Frank (O'Keefe), who has to slip through the shrubbery after being stopped by the security guard. Also at the party is Lance's sister, Melanie (Rulin), whom he dominates to a creepy degree. The party comes to an abrupt end when a sparkler goes off on the lawn atop a brick and a photograph of a young woman marked "R.I.P.," though Frank, claiming to be an electrician, sticks around after the other guests leave. What starts off as an amiable conversation quickly turns nasty, as Lance's films had a tragic real-life consequence the director refuses to fully acknowledge... and with Melanie involved against her will, Frank intends to teach him a lesA Thousand Cutsson.

Confined almost entirely to a single location and spending most of its time as a battle of wits between two characters, A Thousand Cuts falls in line with such previous films as Death and the Maiden, Hard Candy, and Closet Land, all of which oddly deal with the theme of torture without much explicit detail. This one tosses in the idea of cinematic influence, a touchy subject given the reliable political scapegoating of movies, video games, and/or music every couple of years. Any real conclusion is avoided here since the focus is more on a filmmaker who resorts to cinematic sadism for a quickA Thousand Cuts paycheck, and while Newcomer (whose name is, apparently, still applicable) doesn't really pull off the whole Hollywood douche bag routine at the beginning, he's much better once he settles down for his stand off against O'Keefe, a steady character actor (famous for Caddyshack and The Great Santini) who adopts a bizarre accent here but otherwise pulls off the combination of vengeance and grief required from his role. The rest of the cast has little to do, with Rulin (from the High School Musical films) off stage for much of the running time; the prominently billed James Van Patten (from three of the Saw films) and An American Werewolf in London's David Naughton basically pop up to deliver a few lines in the opening party scene, so don't expect much more than glorified cameos there.

Shot on what appear to be consumer-grade HD digital cameras, A Thousand Cuts look pretty typical for a low-budget production of the time; the bright scenes inside the house look pretty decent and colorful, while the darker exterior scenes are far more erratic and tend to become more sludgy and noisy at times. The film is available from Horizon (distributed through Kino) as both a Blu-Ray and DVD, with the former obviously benefiting from the uptick in resolution and looking about like what you'd see on an average HD cable broadcast. Audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options, with the former actually boasting some consistent and active rear channel activity and making for a more enjoyable presentation. The only extras are the trailer (which again tries to make this look way more vicious than it really is) and a small gallery of promotional stills.

Reviewed on January 20, 2012.